Hudson district opens new wings at two schools

Kids, staff like new classrooms

HUDSON–A recent visit to see the new Junior High School and the recently completed two-story wing at John L. Edwards Elementary School in Hudson gives cause for optimism even in these forbidding economic times.

With its cafeteria illuminated by skylights and its glass-walled hallways, the Junior High sparkles. It’s a new wing of the High School on Harry Howard Avenue, one of several recent renovations the district has recently carried out. Although the final touches were still in progress as school opened this fall, students, faculty and administrators are enthusiastic about their new surroundings. And discipline problems, often a complaint at the Middle School, the former home of the seventh and eighth grades, have diminished, said Principal Derek Reardon.

“This is the 21st century,” said computer teacher Meghan Connors, when asked how she liked her new classroom. She teaches virtual business, robotics, forensics, flight tech and more in her 12-unit Computers and Technology course. The new facility provides students with opportunities they otherwise would not have had to explore these career possibilities, she said.

Before the new building opened Deanne Doto conducted her science labs in an art room at the Middle School. Now she works in a classroom equipped with state-of-the-art lab equipment, including a safety glass cabinet to zap bacteria and carry away exhaust fumes.

“It makes a difference,” said Carol Gans, principal of the John L. Edwards School on State Street. The two-story, seven-room addition there was also completed this fall.

“We had people in spaces that they shouldn’t have been teaching in,” said Ms. Gans.

The new addition includes classrooms, offices and conference rooms, and when it opened it allowed the school to restore spaces in the older part of the school that had been appropriated for classrooms, like the ‘all purpose room’ for indoor recess on rainy days. The addition also freed up space for a book room, where teachers can procure reading materials for students and a computer room with 30 stations equipped with hand-me-down equipment from the district.

The elementary school library was remodeled into a brighter more coherent space, and a former classroom now is home to the family literacy project.

And then there was perhaps the most visible change for students, teachers and administrators: “Everybody has a window now,” said the principal.

“It’s a great feeling to work in such a beautiful building,” said reading teacher Beth Hawes, who taught in the school’s windowless bomb shelter for 18 years.

Music, which had been taught on the stage, now has a soundproof room. That and other new classrooms have beautiful views of the woods behind the school.

The playground, which retained its equipment, was refurbished with a new shredded rubber ground covering and a short chain-link fence. Ms. Gans is hoping for new swings and a basketball hoop nearby.

“The students are enthralled with the newness, and our teachers are thrilled,” said school board President Emil Meister, who taught in the district for 32 years. He said completion of the district’s new building projects along with the decision to close the aging Greenport Elementary School on Union Turnpike represents a major change.

“We’ve moved from four buildings to three. Now the seventh and eighth grades are in a more age-appropriate campus. It’s the way it should have been organized before and a good change, although there are still some glitches to be worked out,” he said.

Those glitches include the fate of the Alternative Learning Program (ALP), and roofs that are beyond warranty and starting to show wear and tear.

The ALP, which serves students who did not succeed in the educational mainstream, has remained in a warren of modular classroom trailers on the Greenport campus, where it has been allowed to remain for one more year.

Mr. Meister said the district was considering several options for the program and would be making a decision about it during the next few months. The subject had come up during last year’s budget discussion, but because time was deemed too short to fully explore the options, it was tabled until this winter. The fate of the program, which costs more than $400,000, is “a decision the board will have to arrive at relatively soon. No matter what we decide, many will be unhappy,” he said.

Also on the horizon are negotiations this spring for labor contracts that expire in June. Negotiations will have to consider likely cuts in state funding.

“We have a lot of good people. We don’t want to lose any personnel,” said Mr. Meister, who said the board would have to balance the burden the district places on taxpayers against its staff needs. As those discussions loom, he said, “We’re lucky we’ve completed the building cycle.”

Much of the money it took to make the improvements came from the state at minimum cost to taxpayers. “Those funds will not be available in future,” he said. 

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